EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Southern Sudan Referendum Commission's representative in the U.S. on the state of voter registration

Category: Diaspora
Published on Wednesday, 01 December 2010 08:33
Written by Joseph Deng Garang, The New Sudan Vision (NSV), newsudanvision.com
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(OMAHA NSV)--Just last month, for the Southern Sudanese diaspora population, a vote during the upcoming Referendum on independence of Southern Sudan was in question. The whole thing seemed like it was hanging in the balance, because it was not clear if the prospects of voting on the actual referendum day were favorable.


But  on November 15, the Out of Country Registration and Voting (OCRV) exercise started under the auspices of International Organization for Migration (IOM) and yesterday New Sudan Vision President ,Joseph Deng Garang, had an exclsuive interview with Mr. Benaiah Duku, representative of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission to the United States. Below is the full text of that interview:


Q. Sudan's  Out of Country Registration and Voting (OCRV) began on November 15, 2010 for the intial three Referendum Centers in the U.S., can you paint an accurate picture or an assessment of how the registration has been going thus far?


Mr. Duku: For the record, the Out of Country Registration and Voting exercise was delayed for one day for those in the United States. It started on November 16. The delay was due to some issues that were being worked out by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, for example the demand for more centers by communities in the U.S. As for the registration that began on the 15, it is going on well. Seven more days have been added, and it is going to end on December 8.


Q. What about the statistics or the registration turn-out?


Mr. Duku: We have not determined the number because registration is still on-going.


Q. The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission granted the request for more registration centers after communities pushed for them, when will those five new centers open for registration?


Mr. Duku: They are to start on December 6-22. We are letting the public know that the fact that the registration has changed from the initial deadline will not in any way compromise the Referendum Day of  9, 2011.


The new centers and their addresses are:


Boston: 61 Massachusetts Avenue

Arlington, Ma ssachusetts 02474


Chicago:3245 N Ashland #1Chicago, IL 60657


Dallas:10440 Markison Rd. Dallas, Texas 75238


Nashville: 535 4th Avenue South.Nashville, Tennessee 37210


Seattle: 608 Maynard Ave. S.Seattle, WA 98104



Q. There is a huge population of Southern Sudanese living in the U.S., what was the logic behind the Commission's  approval of only three centers in the first place?


Mr. Duku: I can not say any about that.


Q. There have been several questions regarding IOM recruitment of staff, especially the hiring as it relates to how center managers and identifiers are chosen. Some are saying they were picked in Southern Sudan. Whether or not the positions were advertised. May you shed some light by clarifying this confusion?

Mr. Duku: Yes, the process is that people have been recruited from among Southern Sudanese communities. The positions were advertised and the final list was approved by me. Special attention was paid to how we approved managers and especially identifiers who are supposed to be those knowlegeable about ethnicities. For the five new centers, we will take some of the already trained staff working at the original three centers and take them there. We will also go back and review and pick from some of the names that applied in last month. We are also putting in consideration the number of women which will be more for the new centers. We will have elders who have knowledgeable about their communities. Right now the selection of staff for the five new centers has been closed.


Q. When voters go to the polls on Janauray 9, 2011, are the current staff going to be the ones in place to oversee the voting or do you have anoher plans?


Mr. Duku: Let us not forget that this entire exercise is being handled by the IOM. When the registration is over, they will make determination as to how many of the current staff will be kept based on the number of those registered. So yes, some will kept because we can not afford to hire another team because that requires training.


Q.How is the accreditation being handled?


Mr. Duku: For observers, there is a form that has to be filled out and it is sent to Sudan for approval by the Commission.


Q. For all Southern Sudanese, there is no denying that a chance to vote in Janaury will remain the most important exercise of their lifetimes. How has it felt for you as the U.S. representaive of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commision to be the face of that call of history? And how have you been preparing, in terms of resources, to keep all lines of communcation open for all the citizens, communities and civil society groups in the U.S. to make the best use of this historic moment?


Mr. Duku: This is a very important question. First, the role of the Commission is make sure the process is credible, free and fair; to make sure the IOM follows its role and that it is not the decider. This referendum is being run by civil socities--they and the citizens own the process and the outcome. They are mobilizing, and  encouraging people to register and vote. They are the observers.My lines of communications are open day and night. We send out fliers. And on a personal note, my participation is not any different from that of all my fellow southerners. This is a moment that comes once in a lifetime.